During the 2011 NFL season, New York Giant defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul was named to the Pro Bowl, the All-Pro team, notched 16.5 sacks and led the Giants defense to a Super Bowl victory. The athletic wonder is seemingly unstoppable. But is he?
As part of the Football 101 series, current and former NFL players chimed in with their thoughts on how to stop the freakish pass-rusher. That advice, combined with film study, leads us to offer up these suggestions on how to try and slow down JPP.
Step One: Double Team with a Tight End
Telling NFL teams to double team JPP is like preaching to the choir, but it was surprising how few teams actually used two blockers to slow down Pierre-Paul during the 2011 season. The team who had the best success against JPP, the New Orleans Saints, assigned two blockers to No. 90 throughout the game, regardless of where he was lining up on the field.
We can see here the Saints are in a jumbo set with three tight ends on the right side of the offensive line across from JPP. Drew Brees sends No. 80 Jimmy Graham in motion before the snap, leaving two tight ends and one tackle to handle JPP. Watch what happens when the ball is snapped.
New Orleans committed two players to blocking JPP, and they were able to do so without sacrificing blockers to slow down the remaining New York pass-rushers. The key to this play is that the two tight ends were able to stay in and block while the Saints passing game rolled the protection and the routes away from JPP's side of the field. This is routinely called a waggle play—Brees takes the snap, and the entire offense is poised to go away from JPP.
Step Two: Cut Block
The cut block is a great way to not only slow down defenders in a single play, but to wear them down over the course of a game. The Saints executed a perfect cut block on Pierre-Paul, courtesy of Jimmy Graham, on a run play away from JPP's side. This block allows the back the option to cut back, and it also is one more hit on the defender which will wear him down throughout the game.
The video shows you real time how the Saints were able to take JPP down, but here are a few stills showing the formation and the actual block. Few teams have a tight end athletic enough to execute this play, but the Saints are fortunate enough to have one.
Step Three: Formations and Alignments
In watching the Giants' 2011 season, there were notable formations and alignments that caused JPP trouble. Looking closely at the NFC Championship game, you can see where the San Francisco 49ers had success by stacking a tight end at the end of the line on JPP's side.
Another "trick" that worked well for the 49ers in the run game was to send left tackle Joe Staley up field and let left guard Mike Iupati take on Pierre-Paul one-on-one. The 49ers would then run a delay or draw play, which often times, caught JPP too far up-field to react.
Few NFL teams have the personnel packages to account for a player as athletic as JPP. Factor in his linemates, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck, and the Giants defensive line becomes almost unblockable. Finding new ways to stop athletic pass-rushers like this will determine how the NFL continues to develop offensively.
A dynamic pass-rusher named Lawrence Taylor made the left tackle position one of the most important in the NFL. A player like Pierre-Paul further reinforces that need, but also puts pressure on tight ends and fullbacks to be better blockers.